We waste a third of the world's food supply every year along with all the energy and water needed to produce it. However, we may be chucking away food scraps that are not scraps at all. Many fruit and vegetables have skins and leaves which we commonly discard that are more colourful and higher in nutritious phytochemicals like carotenoids and flavonoids than the flesh. These deliver a greater variety of antioxidants if we learn how to utilize them.
It's important to note that if you do start consuming the skins, or outer shells of fruits and vegetables to ensure you buy organic since a higher percentage of pesticides are retained in the skins and shells than on the inner flesh.
Processing of fruits produces and vegetables produces two types of waste - a solid waste of peel/skin, seeds and a liquid waste of juice and washwaters. These waste by-products could be utilized as a good source of affordable antioxidants for advancing human health and preventing some chronic diseases
1. POTATO AND CARROT SKINS
Most of the nutrients in potatoes and carrots, like vitamin C and potassium, are preserved when eaten with the skin on. The skins also contain significant fiber. Nearly every recipe that calls for a peeled potato or carrot can be made with a peel-on potato or peel-on-carrot, so experiment and leave those skins alone.
2. BROCCOLI STALKS AND LEAVES
The stalks and leaves of the superfood broccoli are just as packed with antioxidants, fiber, and taste as the florets, yet they often end up going to waste. The leaves are generally not even available in most supermarkets but they will grow in your garden. Broccoli stalks and leaves are an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamins A & C. You can consume them raw in a salad and don’t forget that the stems contain a good dose of fibre, and sliced are great for a crunchy snack.
3. MELON RIND
Almost all melon rinds are rich in citrulline, an amino acid which can help to improve blood circulation. Blend the rind with the flesh to add an antioxidant boost to your super fresh smoothie.
4. ACORN SQUASH
If you're eating just the flesh of this superfood, you're missing out on vital antioxidants: Acorn squash skin provides an array of phytonutrient benefits plus fiber. You can roast halves with their skin and eat the skin with the flesh. It adds texture, color, and overall meal appeal. Adding a drizzle of maple syrup, and a pinch of sea salt makes this meal divine.
5. ONION SKIN
Onion skin is rich in quercetin - which may reduce blood pressure and prevent clogged arteries. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits, restraining both the production and release of histamine and other allergic and inflammatory sources, meaning that it may be useful for hay fever sufferers. Always remove the tough onion outermost skin layer before eating, but just beneath that lies an abundance of nutrients that may even protect you from other foods cooked under high heat.
6. PINEAPPLE CORE
The core of the pineapple is a little harder and obviously not as appealing as the fleshy part of the fruit. But it’s in your interest to eat a little bit of the harder core of this healthy fruit. The cores too are high in nutrients. It is just a little harder and less sweet than the rest, but eating it raw is the best way to obtain all the nutrients. It's excellent in a smoothie.
7. ORANGE AND LEMON PEELS
The peels of these citrus fruits are powerhouses of fibre, flavonoids and vitamins. Anecdotal evidence shows that an active chemical in the peels of lemons and oranges (d-limonene) helps relieve heartburn and indigestion. The good concentration of vitamin C helps boost the immune system and could help prevent respiratory infections. Peel extract can also be used as an antibacterial cleanser, made into an insect repellent and even a grease-busting kitchen cleaner. It has also been used to naturally whiten stained teeth. Pectin and other fibre found in the white layer beneath the skin of the oranges and lemons and can help curb appetite and suppress hunger for up to 4 hours.
8. CELERY LEAVES
Containing five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks, celery leaves also contain vitamin C and phenolics - powerful antioxidants which may help combat cancer, heart disease and even aging. Use them as you would celery- add to soups, salads, sauces, relishes etc.
9. CHARD STEMS
Packed with glutamine, antioxidants and phenolic compounds the stems are as edible as the leaves. Steam the stems whole just as you would asparagus.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.